Jean-Étienne Valluy

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Jean Etienne Valluy
Born 15 May 1899
Rive-de-Gier, France
Died 4 January 1970(1970-01-04) (aged 70)
Paris, France
Buried at Rive-de-Gier, France
Allegiance  France
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1918-1960
Rank Général d'Armée
Commands held French Far East Expeditionary Corps
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
First Indochina War

Jean Etienne Valluy (15 May 1899 – 4 January 1970) was a French general.

He was born in Rive-de-Gier, Loire, on 15 May 1899 to Claude (Claudius) Valluy and Jeanne, Adrienne Cossanges. In 1917 he entered the military academy of Saint-Cyr. He left as “Aspirant” in July 1918 and joined the Régiment d'Infanterie Coloniale du Maroc (RICM) in August 1918. He took part in the last four months of the First World War, where he was wounded in the neck and received the first of his citations.

He climbed all the ranks of officer to Brigadier General in 1945. He was a French military leader from 1943 until 1970. He was Director of the French Colonial Forces, Chief of Staff 1st Army, General Officer Commanding 9th Colonial Division, General Officer Commander in Chief Indochina, Inspector of Overseas Land Forces, Assistant Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Head French Delegation at NATO Council, and Commander in Chief Allied Forces Central Europe.

During the war in Vietnam, General Jean Etienne Valluy was the French commander who replaced Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque and attempted to wipe out the Vietminh in one stroke, but failed. The French colonial government had co-existed uneasily with the Japanese occupying force during the Second World War but had been swept aside by Japanese military action in March 1945, leading to the Vietnamese declaration of independence in August 1945. By 1947, the French had re-occupied the south of Viêt-nam and Valluy in temporary command there sent troops north to re-establish control of Tonkin.[1] His French infantry with armored units went through Haiphong fighting house to house against Vietminh squads. French aircraft zoomed in to bomb and strafe while the cruiser Suffren, in the harbor, lobbed shells into the city, demolishing whole neighborhoods of flimsy structures. Refugees streamed into nearby provinces with their belongings in baskets and on bicycles, and the naval guns shelled them as well. Days passed before the French finally overcame the last Vietminh snipers. The Vietnamese claimed that the French actions caused twenty thousand deaths. A French admiral later estimated that no more than six thousand Vietnamese had been killed. Vu Quoc Uy, then chairman of the Haiphong municipal committee, said in an interview in 1981 that the toll had been between five hundred and a thousand.

"If the Viets want a fight, they'll get it," said Valluy as he landed in Haiphong on 17 December, his temper boiling over the slaughter of three French soldiers by Vietminh militia in Hanoi that day.[2]

The French encircled the Vietminh base, Viet Bac in 1947 by securing its only two roads and dropping paratroopers. They almost captured Ho Chi Minh, who slipped into a camouflaged hole at the last minute. But General Valluy, whose experience until then had been in Europe, quickly sized up his efforts as impossible. With a total of some fifteen thousand men, he was trying to defeat sixty thousand troops over nearly eighty thousand square miles of almost impenetrable forest. Unlike his 19th-century predecessors, he was up against not small insurgent bands but a disciplined army. He could only withdraw to a thin string of forts along Route 4, a twisting road running through ravines and over high passes between the towns of Lang Son and Cao Bang. Chronically exposed to Vietminh ambushes, French soldiers dubbed it the Rue sans Joie, or Street without Joy.

He died in Paris in 1970 and is buried at Rive-de-Gier, near Bank Freedom.


  1. ^ Phillippe Devillers, Histoire du Viêt-Nam de 1940 à 1952. Editions du Seuil, Paris. Third edition,1952, pp. 331-340
  2. ^ Philippe Devillers, Histoire du Viêt-Nam de 1940 à 1952, p. 352